Travel has always been a theme at the heart of Nick’s songs and with this new collection it is one he is more than happy to return to. From passing references that frame the location of his stories to the wonderfully celebratory Ode To Marburg, which revels in the anticipation of returning to a place that has left an indelible mark on him. Which brings us to the other cornerstone of Nick’s music…positivity. Even at his most reflective, most wistful, the songs always have an optimistic direction of travel, the next gig will always be more fun, the next town will offer new adventures or long overdue reunions, the next year will bring more contentment, the next tour new experiences.
And that is the charm of it all really, this is a man who relishes not only writing songs and playing gigs but also the lines that join those dots, the travel, fresh encounters, exploring new places and soaking up their beauty and potential. And I guess this is rooted in the type of performer Nick is. Whilst many of his fellow acoustic wielding, circuit buddies come from that punk infused, anti-folk corner, more interested in defining what they are against rather than what they are for, these songs come from a more social, more inclusive, place. They are character studies, diary entries and wry observations from his touring life, less about them and us outsiderism and more a celebration of the things we have in common.
And whilst he does often favour pun over poeticism (have you worked the title out yet?) there is eloquence to the writing, a concise lyrical delivery that is essential to pulling off a good joke or a wry turn of phrase. Musically, it does the same, even on the busiest of songs, such as the Oysterband-ish opening salvo Make Yourself at Home or the expertly driven More Like This, there is no clutter just a musical practicality that doesn’t over play the hand. At the other extreme A Simple Song delivers just what it says on the tin, dealing in minimalism and charm whilst the plaintive and passionate Not Fooling Me reminds us that for all the troubadouring and travel, it is all about the people around us, the ones who keep us on the right path, the ones without whom…
Besta Venya is a gem of an album. It tugs heartstrings, evokes memories, embraces the world and documents it all majestically, poignantly and best of all humorously. If ever an album has made me want to grab a guitar and a train ticket and head out for pastures new, embrace new cultures, people, places and possibilities it is this. And if this album had been readily available prior to the Referendum, the idea of an exit from Europe would not have even got a look in.